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Until recently, showstopper hotels in Tel Avis have been few and far between—just one or two in the city center or on the touristy beachfront. But the creative neighborhood of Faff, a warren of cobblestone streets with a bustling local market and artists’ studios, has been the focus of regeneration. New York real estate developer and RFR Holding founder Aby Rosen took notice and, in 2005, snapped up a prime, nearly five-acre hilltop spot overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. What was a French 19th-century hospital is now, thanks to a sensitive restoration and the addition of a new building by Interior Design Hall of Fame member John Pawson, the Jaffa, a luxury property featuring 120 guest rooms and suites, 32 residences, two restaurants, and a spa?

Rosen recruited Pawson to creatively helm what would turn into a 13-year project. Although the two had worked together previously, on the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, Pawson had never done a project in Israel, and only visited the country once years before. But he was intrigued. “It’s the Middle East, it’s vibrant,” Pawson enthuses. “And Jaffa is the oldest port in the Mediterranean.”